Schumer urges weather agency to keep Sandy labeled a tropical storm

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is urging the federal weather agency to avoid labeling Superstorm Sandy a hurricane because doing so would raise insurance deductibles.

Schumer sent a letter Sunday to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and insurance companies warning that classifying Sandy as a hurricane could boost deductibles to $20,000, compared to $1,000 for a tropical storm.

Schumer says insurers are seeking to have Sandy labeled a hurricane to cut their losses from the devastating natural disaster.

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“Today, we’ve sent a letter to NOAA, the weather agency, as well as to the insurance companies that we’re looking over their shoulder. We want NOAA to keep this classified as a tropical storm and to save homeowners in New York and Long Island thousands of dollars and we don’t want the insurance companies to play any games,” Schumer told WCBS 880.

Early projections have said the toll from Sandy’s damage could total $50 billion for the East Coast. New York’s tab alone could reach $33 billion.

Sandy was classified as a Category 1 hurricane until it made landfall, at which time weather forecasters said it became a post-tropical storm.

Interest groups and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are taking a look at private insurers’ role in coastal areas subjected to the effects of climate change. Private insurance firms are growing reluctant to cover those areas, which are expanding because of climate change.

Green groups and Democrats warn that extreme weather, including storms like Sandy, could become more common. While climate scientists could not definitively say climate change caused Sandy, they attributed the storm’s intensity to rising sea levels and warmer waters.

The federal government has often footed the bill for flood insurance in coastal regions — often at the expense of taxpayers. The Hill’s E2-Wire has more on that here.

— This story was updated at 5:06 p.m.